Samkhya Karika 8, Mahat Proves the Existence of Prakriti

Author: Randeep Singh / go to all Samkhya Karikas

Samkhya Karika 8 text:

Saukshamyaat tad-anupalabdhir  na abhaavaat kaaryatas tad-upalabdheh |

Mahad adi tach cha kaaryam  prakritiviroopam saroopam cha ||

Saukshamyaat – subtle by nature

Tad – that

Anupalabdhir – no perception or grasping

Na – not

Abhaavaat – that which does not exist

Kaaryatas – through its effects or end results

Tad – that

Upalabdheh – as it is seen or known

Mahad – mahat, budhi

Adi – others

Tach Cha – and that

Kaaryam – its effects

Prakritiviroopam – attributes and nature dissimilar to Prakriti

Saroopam – Attributes and nature similar to Prakriti

Cha – and 

Sankhya karika 8 explains that Prakriti as an entity as described by Samkhya philosophy cannot be perceived by the senses as it is too subtle to be detected by the sense organs, but that does not mean that it doesn’t exist. The existence of Prakriti can be validated by the presence of its evolutes, or the entities which have evolved out of it like the intellect (Mahat) and others. These evolutes of Prakriti may appear similar or dissimilar to the parent body prakriti but still their existence is the testimony to the presence of Prakriti.

Evolute of Prakriti, Mahat, Proves its Existence | Samkhya Karika 8

Prakriti is the root cause of all phenomenon – perceptible or imperceptible – that exist in the universe.  All the things which can be seen like matter and everything hat cannot be perceived by or senses like the radio waves emerge from Prakriti. How this emergence takes place is explained in the Samkhya karikas that will be following Sankhya karika 8.  Prakriti cannot be perceived because it is too subtle for our senses to detect its existence. 

Water vapours are the subtler evolutes, version of the more perceptible water and that is why they cannot be seen distinctively in the clouds, the clouds are made up of millions of water vapours that are not visible to the naked eye. Likewise, one can easily see and know the existence of one’s body but one cannot see or understand the organisation and working of the subtler atoms which form the body. It would be wrong to infer that the atoms do not exist just because they are not visible to the eyes.

Samkhya Karika 8

Similarly, the force of gravity  is not visible but its existence can be verified from its effect on all the objects present on Earth; the objects remain fixed on the surface due to the pull of gravity towards the center of the Earth. Subtle objects and phenomenon can only be known or perceived by purer minds like that of ancient saints and rishis. This karika explains that how the existence of the subtler entities can be proved by the existence of their evolutes which may be similar or dissimilar to the parent entity. Clarified butter – ghee- evolves from milk cream and butter and is very different in nature, appearance to these substances, but the essence of the ghee and the milk cream remains the same. 

On the other hand butter milk which evolves from milk is similar in appearance to milk – both white liquids of similar consistencies – as the essence of both remains the same. Going by the same analogy we can prove the existence of Prakriti by the presence of one of its evolutes Mahat (intellect) which is dissimilar in nature to its parent entity, the Prakriti. The cause of the effect called Mahat is Prakriti, thus, if the effect is present the cause would definitely be in existence even though it may not be seen or similar in appearance to the evolute. How other evolutes of Prakriti emerge from it will be explained in the karikas following this one. 

 Here Isvar Krishna makes a point that anything that cannot be seen does not mean that it doesn’t exist as well. The ability of the physical body to know everything is limited. There are a lot of phenomenon and realities present in the universe which cannot be completely known by an ordinary mind. Here, the author is trying to emphasise the fact that even our body apart from being an object as we can know it also possess some superior subtle aspects which we must explore and develop. 

Exploring and developing these subtler aspects of oneself takes a lot of efforts and determination to achieve, because of which tends to give upon it very easily. Its only when one suffers for long that one decides to make an effort for the same. One comes to this world and begins to believe only that one can see or touch which are not permanent and stable in existence. This imparts insecurity in the lesser evolved minds which prevents them from living in the present, only being in the present moment can give peace and serenity to the mind as it gives one a sense of control – which is absent in the thoughts of the past  (which cannot be changed) and the future ( over which one feels helpless) – and stability to the mind.

Samkhya philosophy talks about knowing, or realising Purusha, the entity which is non changing and permanently stable in character. The main aim of Samkhya is to help one understand and get rid of the changing, unstable conditions of Prakriti but realising the stable and steady Purusha. But, since an ordinary mind cannot see Purusha it does not believe in it. Only when the one that can be seen seizes to exist  – as in death – that one realises that there is something beyond the visible aspects of the universe. 

Samkhya believes that there is definitely something beyond the intellect and the gross body which one must strive to know as this is the only way to attain the most sorted after peace and tranquillity of mind. One can begin by reading, thinking, discussing, and taking some experience on this path.